A few minutes after Raj Malhotra beckons Simran singing ‘Ruk jaa o dil diwaane’, the audience watching Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayengay saw the couple singing ‘Ho gaya hai tujhko toh pyaar sajna’ in a double-decker bus in Switzerland as the next shot. “I had stepped out of the projection room for a few minutes. From the sound I realised that the wrong tape had been projected and immediately turned down the lights in the theatre and got back the right reel in two minutes,” recollects Jagjivan Maru, the chief projectionist at Maratha Mandir, the cinema hall where the iconic film completed 1,000 weeks on Friday. It was critical for Maru to get the right tape immediately. “After all, the next scene sees Raj saying his famous line ‘baddi-baddi shehron mein aisi choti-choti batein hoti rehti hai Senorita’,” Maru adds.
The technician belongs to the small town of Mohabbatpara in Gujarat. A class X pass-out, ‘Jaggu’ starts his day at 10 am, after a long commute from Vasai to Mumbai Central. His shift ends at 6 pm. The 62-year-old Maru has watched over 7000 shows of DDLJ in his 40 years of work as a projectionist. “He is not only taking care of it, he is running the movie. Right from checking the print to buying a new one to bringing an engineer to repair it,” Maratha Mandir manager Manoj Pandey said.
After entering Maratha Mandir and climbing up two flight of stairs, there is a long rectangular projection room with large windows. This room is exclusive for the three men handling the projectors for DDLJ and other movies.
The space houses two small rooms. One, brightly lit, keeps safe the reels of DDLJ and Maru’s favourite Kuch Kuch Hota Hai amongst others in large circular tin boxes. The second, dimly lit, is home to the two projectors. It is, also, home to Maru. “Even a bit of light enters the theatre room from here, which is why we have to keep it really dark,” explains Maru. This is the window through which, Maru says, he “developed a bond with KajoI”.
Maru has his maroon, high-legged chair right beside the projector. DDLJ has twenty 18-20 minutes long serially numbered reels.
“If there is a different show in the morning, then it feels odd. You start to question things around you if you don’t get to hear the guitar tune Shah Rukh plays,” he says.
The movie is a family entertainer and the 280 balcony seats are filled with families on the weekends, says Maru.
A few days ago Maru was invited to a TV show. He saw the stars in person for the very first time. Maru says he drew a blank while reciting a dialogue for Kajol. “I was losing grip on the mike, but the next second Shah Rukh came and gave me a hug,” he says.
“On the first day, I thought it wouldn’t run for many days… But, then, it picked up after the second week. It ran full-house for the next thousand,” Manu recalls.